PhD in Philology, Associate Professor of Department of the Russian Languages and Literature, Kyiv National Linguistic University
5/17 Laboratorna St., Kyiv 01030, Ukraine
Abstract: In Standard Ukrainian there are two competing synonymous constructions signifying movement across a surface or within some limits, viz. preposition po with locative case (ity po doroz-i go-INF PREP road-LOC.SG ‘follow [the] road’) and instrumental case without preposition (ity doroh-oju go-INF road-LOC.INS). Same variation is present in the other East Slavic languages (Russian and Belarusian), albeit in a lesser degree. The constructions and their respective frequency are studied in the present paper in the large diachronic corpus GRAC, where texts are additionally tagged by regions of Ukraine and states of diaspora. It is shown that in the 19th century the construction with instrumental case was statistically far more predominant with the nouns signifying paths (doroha ‘road’, šljax ‘way’ etc.) that with the nouns of space (zemlja ‘land’, lis ‘wood’ etc.), in the later periods the difference between these two semantic groups becomes insignificant. In recent texts (beginning of the 21th century) the frequency of the instrumental construction dramatically rises also with names of rooms like xata ‘peasant house’; the same tendency had begun even earlier with nouns like sxody ‘stairs’ and koridor ‘corridor’. The prepositional construction is still predominant with the abstract names of trajectories like kolo ‘circle’, prjama ‘straight line’, duha ‘arc’.
We also studied the combinations with the verbs of multidirectional movement like nosyty ‘carry’, bihaty ‘run’ etc. It is worth noticing that with these verbs the names of rooms like xata were almost exclusively (in 100-98% of cases) used with prepositional construction until 1990s-2000s, when the latter shrunk drastically, sharing now equal proportions with the instrumental construction.
The common contemporary tendency is thus to avoid the po-construction and to generalize the instrumental case for the majority of contexts (with the only exception of the names of abstract trajectories); historically the distribution was far more nuanced and depended on lexical semantics.
Keywords: Ukrainian language, grammar, syntax, syntactic government, locative case, instrumental case, preposition, movement semantics, spatial semantics, diachronic evolution, variability, corpus, frequency, statistics